Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Poverty is one of the reasons why vulnerable children are in care. Sadly, the parents of these children often work, yet the wages they earn are not enough to support them. Furthermore, increasing living costs and decreasing benefits make it difficult for families to feed themselves, especially as Universal Credit’s safety valve of an extra £20.00 per week finishes this month. When this goes on, more families than ever are facing poverty.
Food banks are blessings as they help families in need with additional food. However, there is a stigma that children living in poverty will come under the poverty label. Their fears are real; they fear social services will take their children into care.
We have a massive shortage of foster carers to care for these children. Also, the cost of Children’s residential care, especially in the independent sector, is extortionately high. Thus, these rising costs have severely crippled Local Authority budgets for Children’s Services.
Local Authorities pay more for IFA foster carers.
Independent Fostering Agencies also charge Local Authorities higher fees for their foster carers. Maybe if our Local Authorities and the Not-for-profit Charities had more foster carers, they wouldn’t need to use expensive foster carers from IFAs.
Indeed, because families are now struggling, is there a Machiavellian system that cruelly takes children into care due to poverty? Indeed, child poverty should not be a reason for children to go into care. Maybe if we gave more support to families when they needed it to alleviate poverty in the first place, it would reduce the number of children needing foster carers. Or am I too simplistic in my views?
Massive changes are needed to alleviate poverty.
It is heartbreaking that Social Services remove children and place them in care because their parents don’t have enough money to feed them, even though they are working and in employment. Indeed, we should be calling for massive changes; it is unacceptable that families who want to stay together are unable to due to poverty.
Furthermore, if your standard of living is dictated by the postcode lottery of where you live, not how you live, and the chances of support if you ever get stuck are zero, how are families meant to cope? According to the State of Child Health Report, 30% of children live in poverty in a typical UK classroom. It doesn’t say where this data originates from as some regions of the UK, for example, the North East and North West of England, have been hit hardest.
Furthermore, more children in care from both these regions have faced an increase of children being in care due to poverty, child abuse and neglect.
Poverty is no longer a postcode lottery.
Austerity has been a geographical divide, with the North bearing the brunt of austerity; however, affluent areas in the South are now feeling the effects of poverty. Suppose you combine poverty with the impact of a global pandemic and Brexit. When you do, you realise that it becomes another ‘label’ to justify the actions that poverty brings.
According to an article in the Guardian, poverty hit the North East of England hard. Furthermore, a joint report by the directors of children’s services in the region states:
‘The North-East has the highest referrals to children’s social care in the UK, significantly higher than the national average. Since 2009, the region has seen a 77% increase in its care population. Inner London has seen a 25% reduction over the same period.‘
‘The directors call for a “radical rethink” of how to provide safe and loving homes for children who cannot live with their birth family. They argue the “dysfunctional market” for children’s residential care must be dismantled or radically overhauled and profit-making eliminated or capped.
Not for Profit Charities and communities uniting are the way forward.
Placing children in care because of the label ‘poverty’ has made them vulnerable; however, the support of strangers and communities working with Not-for-Profit Charities is making a significant impact. They have created support networks and campaigns to ensure vulnerable children at risk and their families get the support they need when needed most.
Food poverty makes families vulnerable, and hungry children are less likely to concentrate at school; not surprisingly, they achieve less. Subsequently, the effects of poverty have a downward spiral effect on a child’s future and chances in life.
Furthermore, it was a geographical divide where the’ haves versus the have-nots,’ as my Nan would say. She wasn’t far wrong; nothing has changed, except, sadly, the have-nots are now in former affluent areas. There is no geographical divide between poverty; everyone is vulnerable.
Tough times are calling for tough decisions for families in poverty.
Coronavirus has lasting effects on families, especially Long Covid, as we have yet to find out what we are dealing with. In these challenging times, parents face tough decisions for the future. But the most heartbreaking decision for any parent is to place your children into care because you can’t afford to feed them. It is no wonder that mental health problems for children and adults are rising, as the one thing families know is that children need love. However, love is not enough to keep families together and food on the table. Sadly, it has become a vicious circle that needs to end.
Coronavirus; bringing out the best and the worst in humanity.
The coronavirus is bringing out the best in some of us. However, it brings out the worst in others, and vulnerable families, with little support, are neglected.
As a community, we work with Not-for-Profit Charities and Community organisations to relieve families and children at risk of becoming invisible due to poverty. However, that only works if they know where these organisations are and what they must do to get help.
Verve works alongside Not for Profit Charities, creating campaigns such as the Knitting for Babies Appeal, The Bereavement Blankets Appeal and Emergency Food Parcels with Salford Food Parcels. These campaigns have been successful due to the kindness of people who came forward to help. We didn’t ask for money; we asked for items that families needed now, like knitted baby clothes and blankets. And they came by the thousands, and I have taken them directly to local Sure Start centres, community centres, and Mother & Baby units to ensure they went where Mums needed them most.
The kindness of strangers makes a difference in the smallest of ways.
However, we do not do this alone. We can support families because of the kindness of strangers who have come forward to knit for Babies and keep them warm. They knit Bereavement blankets that comfort people critically ill in hospital with COVID; whilst bringing a smile to children with the beautiful, knitted toys they donate.
Recently, I collected a considerable amount of knitted clothes that a kind lady near me had donated. She had spent hours knitting because it helped her forget herself and her troubles, but she struggled to sew and finish them. I told her, don’t worry; we’ll get this sorted out for you. And thanks to the ladies from the Glossopdale Charity Crafters knitting club who kindly offered their services to us; that’s what is happening.
These women offer their support out of the kindness of their hearts; they are the best. Quite often, they have been in a comparable situation themselves; they understand only too well the failings we have as a society to protect our vulnerable. This understanding is the motivation that drives them to make a difference in the smallest ways, with kindness and love.
How can we help to restore pride with kindness and love?
There is no reason working families should have children in care because of poverty; we must do something about this. The smallest differences, such as a knitted baby’s blanket, would cost over £10.00 and hand-knitted blankets have two advantages. Firstly, saving Mum’s money which can go towards other things; secondly, it restores pride because babies are warm and snug in a garment made with love.
Sadly, because of a lack of local foster carers, children move away from their communities, and siblings become separated. Children in care wait for foster carers to provide short-term and emergency care or, hopefully, placed with family members in Special Guardianships or Kinship foster care.
Recruiting foster carers is a priority; however, we don’t need a spare bed for children. We need foster carers with space in their hearts and homes to support a child when they need you most, for however long they might need you. We must be mindful that children have families; they need emergency or short-term foster care in the hope they can return to the communities to which they belong.
Verve Community: a small gesture to make a big difference.
‘Even the smallest gesture of kindness makes an enormous difference when you are at your lowest ebb. Many of us have been there; we know how it feels. However, we can all get back up again as community members to which we belong.’
Verve Community Campaigns support our communities who need a hand with an army of Ladies who Knit. These ladies knit and crochet baby clothes, toys, bereavement blankets, hearts and teddies; you name it, they knit it. I donate these items direct to Sure Start and Community centres to support Mums and families. The aim is to prevent Mums, babies and children from becoming vulnerable, get help for them, and put their money back in their purses.
Sadly, this doesn’t stop children from going into care. However, by keeping children local, with more foster carers in our community, children will always be close to the families they love and who love them.
Can you foster with a Not-for-Profit Charity? There is no cost and commitment, just honest advice on the fostering process and criteria that enable you to decide if fostering is the way forward for your future and the future of vulnerable children in care.
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